Feb. 26, 2009 – An official from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources met with Coral Bay boaters Thursday to ease fears that started earlier this week when department officers began issuing notices of violation to boats.
"Are you all a little calmer?" Acting Enforcement Director Roberto Tapia asked the three dozen boaters gathered at Skinny Legs Bar and Restaurant.
After the meeting, Coral Bay Yacht Club Commander Mark Maunder said he was pleased with the progress.
"When they started on Monday, the whole community was shocked," Maunder said.
Tapia plans a second meeting with boaters at 6 p.m. Monday at the Coral Bay basketball court.
At Thursday's gathering he outlined several enforcement measures being taken by the department. At the top of the list was the mandate that by 2011 registration requirements will include a provision that boaters show a receipt from a pump out station to prove they legally pumped out their boat. If they chose to go three miles out to empty their holding tanks, Tapia said they must first call the department so officers can witness them leaving the bay.
"If they don't, their boats will not be registered in 2012," Tapia said.
He acknowledged that there are no pump out stations in Coral Bay, but said someone has an application to offer the service with a portable pump-out boat.
Currently, the nearest pump out stations are on the east end of St. Thomas.
At issue for the boaters is the repeated theft of dinghies from the Coral Bay dinghy dock. When one boater at the meeting said the police didn't respond to the problem, Crime Stoppers member Bonnie Corbeil told the boaters to call 911, not the Cruz Bay police station, because the conversations are taped.
If the person at the front desk in the Cruz Bay police station isn't helpful when they go to make a report, Corbeil told them to call Deputy Chief Darren Foy, who is in charge of the St. John police activities. If he's no help, she told them to call Police Commissioner James McCall.
The ongoing dinghy theft problem is the Crime Stoppers Crime of the Week for St. John, Corbeil said.
According to Tapia, boaters then need to contact DPNR with their police report so his officers can look for the boats. He said boats from the Virgin Islands have been recovered in St. Maarten, Tortola and Puerto Rico.
Tapia also spoke about the Coral Bay dinghy dock. He said ownership is unclear because of unsettled issues between the Moravian Church and the company that leased property from the church to build a marina. Construction of the marina seems in doubt because there's been no action for several years and the company hasn't received a Coastal Zone Management permit.
The Coral Bay Yacht Club agreed to maintain the dock, but Tapia said he'd like to see the wooden portion of the dock extended about 10 feet to make room for all the dinghies that use it.
Boaters who have anchored in Coral Bay for more than a year but do not have mooring permits will be able to receive permits, Tapia said. However, they may eventually have to move because the department expects to bring some sort of order to the harbor by grouping boats by size.
Tapia said that boats that currently hold mooring permits in the arm of Coral Bay called Johnson Bay are grandfathered in, but no new mooring permits will be issued for the area. DPNR has threatened several times over the years to oust all boats from Johnson Bay.
As for the sudden appearance of department officers in Coral Bay without holding public meetings and issuing press releases, Tapia said it just happened that way because officers were working in Chocolate Hole.
When he said Coral Bay was scheduled for a clean up in September, a few boaters groaned at the thought of having to deal with planning issues during the height of hurricane season.
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